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John Loftus entertains, informs and incites in Fort Wayne

Posted by neuralgourmet on May 16, 2008

[Cross-posted from Neural Gourmet]

John Loftus, the former evangelical minister turned atheist, author of the soon to be released book Why I Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity and founder of the group blog Debunking Christianity gave a lively talk Wednesday night at the Allen County Public Library. The event, which saw about 40 people in attendance, was organized by Freethought Fort Wayne.

Among other topics, Loftus talked about his previous faith in Christianity, and how he came to lose that faith. However, the meat of Loftus’s presentation was his insightful, and inciteful, criticism of Christian theology. Although Loftus was highly educated in theological studies, including earning two Masters degress, he never completed his Doctorate, acknowledging that he just wasn’t smart enough. Loftus said, “You have to be really smart to come up with this stuff,” meaning the sometimes strained logic employed in Christian apologetics.

To illustrate his point, Loftus quoted noted theologian James D. Strauss, under whom he studied, as being famous for saying, “You can’t get to God unless you start with God”. Loftus said that was the primary problem with the logic employed in apologetics — they start with the supposition that God exists and then try to work out how a world with God would work, rather than examining the world as it is.

These and other statements didn’t sit well with some of the Christian believers in the audience who openly criticized Loftus. Accusations that Loftus’ own scholarship was poor, or that he hadn’t actually read the Bible were made but Loftus took it all in stride, cracking jokes and generally setting his critics at ease, if not convincing them of his views. Watching Loftus deftly handle the crowd it was easy to imagine him in his days as a preacher.

And while Loftus might have angered some Christians in attendance, he says that’s not his intention. He doesn’t apologize for his views and wants to be effective in communicating what he believes to be the inherent errancy of the Christian faith, but coming out of that faith he also tries to be respectful.

Before Loftus’ talk, I had a chance to chat with him about what he’s trying to do, as well as his perceptions of the so-called “new atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. Loftus admitted that some of what the “new atheists” say gives him pause, especially when they make blanket statements like declaring that a religious upbringing is a form of child abuse. He said, “You’ve got to understand that both sides are scared. The atheists and other secularists are afraid that we’re going to return to the Crusades or the Inquisition. But many evangelical Christians are truly afraid that secularists are going to bring about a regime like Stalin’s where religious belief and practice are outlawed.” Loftus says that he understands that what he says is controversial to many people, but he never wants to give the impression that atheists like himself look down on or want to control believers.

Listening and talking with Loftus, one gets the impression of a man who has carefully thought through his arguments, yet who is always open to listening to the views of others, whether they happen to be believers or not. Indeed, Loftus is in a particularly unique position to criticize Christianity from the inside and perhaps persuade people in a way that no scientist or academic ever could of not only the dangers of unexamined belief, but also the rewards of freethought. In a community as deeply religious as Fort Wayne it’s perhaps all the more important that voices such as Loftus’ be heard. And while he might never convince any believer to give up their faith, Loftus’ singular perspective may well indeed serve as a bridge to furthering understanding between atheists and the faithful.

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2 Responses to “John Loftus entertains, informs and incites in Fort Wayne”

  1. neuralgourmet said

    For some reason WordPress wasn’t letting me add images to the post so you’ll have to visit my site to see the photos associated with this post.

  2. […] John Loftus entertains, informs and incites in Fort Wayne (neuralgourmet) […]

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